No matter how experienced you are in documentary filmmaking and all things African – no shoot is like any other. And in particular, this shoot is like no other. Trapped in what has been described a 'closed society' – the Bijagós archipelago – Noé Mendelle struggles to find some sense of balance between traditional and modern influences. When a blog becomes your only place to vent, irony is inevitable. Raw, unfiltered and dispatched on the same day, here is the latest post in her series.
A presidential pain
Insect bite cream tubes: 3
Ibuprofen for headaches: 32
Meeting with presidents so far: 1
Extra security for our documentary production?
This must be the most presidential week of my life. Having met leading candidate for presidential elections at breakfast four days ago, we returned to our hotel today to find it surrounded by a crowd of performers and taken over by strong military presence, only to meet the ex-president of Timor in our hotel. We are staying in Casa Dora, a modest hotel with small traditional huts: a bed, a cold shower and a great cook – wonderful but not the place where you would expect to find VIP clients, let alone presidents. This little island is getting very crowded, and those official visits seem to become bank holidays for everyone, bringing our characters into town... and costing us another day of shoot.
I hope that, if you managed to put up with my extreme sense of humour so far, you got curious enough to go and check where the Bijagós are. Everything is extreme here:
Extreme distance, extreme heat, extreme humidity, extreme nature, extreme politics, extreme abandonment, extreme poverty, extreme abuse. I have been following the development of Guinea-Bissau for the last 40 years and been visiting the Bijagos for the last five years. It is with great sadness that I'm witnessing a society that has extraordinary knowledge and integrity sliding into the hellish turmoil of development. The temptation would be to shout "stop progress" but of course we all know that is impossible and wrong. How we as human beings take on that challenge is what defines the identities of our different societies.
For tomorrow night, we invited two elders and two young people to take part in a debate on local radio about how the Bijagó people combine tradition with development, with people calling in from different islands, sharing their opinions. We hope to expand our list of contacts across different islands that way.
With no electricity, battery-powered radios are the only way for Bijagó people to communicate with each other across islands and of course to get international news or the latest rap song.
Bijagó welcoming committee for the ex-president of Timor
Read all of Noé's updates from the Bijagós so far.
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